Profit over people

Courtenay Sands, Guest Writer

My hate for College Board began sophomore year. I had just learned that the SAT was not administered by the colleges themselves, but that it was run by a huge for-profit organization. I was shocked to find out that a company was monetizing our attempts to have a brighter future. Why should a corrupt organization decide millions of students’ academic futures? At this point, College Board is unavoidable if one wants to get into a competitive, or even decent college, which is unfortunate because College Board is an unfair and unethical organization, which exacerbates the wealth gap in education and exploits their students for money. 

 I have just begun my junior year of high school, yet my mother has already spent at least $600 on SAT prep books, the PSAT, AP classes and exams, and tutors. The US median weekly wage for full-time wage and salary workers in 2020 is $1002. Even though what I pay in relation to College Board is close to two-thirds of that wage, it is nothing compared to what others spend: some families hire professional tutors for the SAT, which can cost up to $400 an hour, and send their children to SAT prep camps, like the Le Rosey one-month-long SAT camp in Switzerland which costs around $20,000. This one-month-long camp costs close to what the poorest families in America make in a year, just to put it into perspective. And while professional tutors and summer camps are not necessarily required or endorsed by College Board, these examples prove how the wealthier people have an advantage in prepping for and reaching a higher score on the SAT. Thus, the SAT tests for wealth more than they do knowledge. I do concede that College Board does offer some financial assistance on the fee of the SAT and the AP exams, and that there are free courses online to study for the SAT, however the playing field between the rich and poor is still not even, because the people from higher socio-economic statuses achieve higher scores through expensive prep -which is significantly more thorough and personalized than the free online courses- and through the difference in the number of times people take the test, as College Board will only give enough financial aid to help compensate for one test, which sets apart poor from the wealthy, who can afford to retake their test until they achieve their desired grade. 

The next problem I have with College Board is their label: College Board promotes the image that it is a not-for-profit organization, however, the company ruthlessly “exploit[s] high schoolers’ anxiety about college admissions” (The UpRoar), making about 1.5 billion dollars in revenue just last year. If College Board was really not-for-profit, then why, especially given their already-high revenues, why would they sell their student’s information? Why would they continue to raise their test prices? Short answer- they wouldn’t. 

The prices of the AP exams rose from $83 in 2007 to $94 in 2019, and this is without inflation factored in. Considering inflation, the prices have actually risen even more. Raising the prices of the AP tests proves that College Board is willing to ignore their consequences on the poor if it means bringing in more money. Next, in a 2019 lawsuit against College Board, it was revealed that College Board is using the Student Search Survey program, a program meant to connect students to colleges, to collect and sell students’ information to third parties for around 47 cents per name. By deceptively collecting and selling this information, College Board proves it cares more about profit than it does the privacy of its students.

And yet, we still rely on College Board to get into college. Even though College Board exploits us, we still take the SAT, we still take the AP courses. We do this because we feel we have no other choice.

By monetizing access to education, College Board is defying the principles of the American Dream and is favoring wealth over well- being. They are solidifying a world where the rich succeed and the poor fail. A world where a person’s merit is based on money. A world where profit matters more than people. It’s time for colleges to abandon College Board and determine their applicants’ worthiness in some other way.